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English soccer chairman wants to keep some foreign players out

Max Ehrenfreud

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Aprl 2, 2015

If you think immigration is controversial in this country, read the headlines from the United Kingdom. As Binyamin Appelbaum reports in The New York Times, 45 percent of people there think immigration is the most important issue in the election next month. What's more, the chairman of English soccer wants limits on the number of foreign players:

The country’s top league, the Premier League, he declared, was headed toward being “owned by foreigners, managed by foreigners and played by foreigners.”

Economists have long held up soccer — which has become one of the most globalized markets for skilled labor — as a shining example of the benefits of open borders. The Premier League now draws capital and labor from around the world, and produces a spectacle consumed around the world. That’s why Tottenham’s jerseys feature the logo of AIA, an Asian-based insurance company that doesn’t even have offices in England. And economists say that’s good for the players, their countries — and for England.

Only 7 percent of Americans describe immigration as the country's most important problem, and it would be hard to imagine anyone proposing a partial ban on foreign athletes. Perhaps that's due to cultural differences: Americans would like to see the system as meritocratic, as a place where anyone with talent is allowed to succeed, and nothing is as meritocratic as sports.

Despite that belief in meritocracy, Americans don't seem to pay much more attention to the consensus among economists on the benefits of immigration than the British. And our immigration system actually discourages talented foreigners from staying here to work after they complete school.

What's in Wonkbook: 1) Menendez indicted 2) Opinions, including Orszag on inequality 3) California is rationing water, and more

Chart of the day: More women are working during their pregnancies, and they're getting back to work faster. Christopher Ingraham in The Washington Post.

1. Top story: Sen. Menendez indicted on bribery charge

Prosecutors accuse Menendez of trading favors for cash. "Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted on federal corruption charges Wednesday, accused of using the influence of his office to advance the business interests of a longtime friend and political supporter in exchange for luxury gifts, lavish vacations and more than $750,000 in campaign donations.​ ... Menendez has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He was defiant Wednesday night before a boisterous crowd of supporters, saying that Melgen’s gifts were a result of friendship dating to the early 1990s and not in exchange for political favors." Paul Kane and Carol D. Leonnig in The Washington Post.

The case could give Republicans another crucial vote in the Senate. "If Menendez were eventually forced to resign from his Senate seat, New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, would likely appoint a Republican replacement to serve until a special election. That would bring the number of Republicans in the Senate to 55... Gaining that incremental edge could mean the difference in a political fight over confirming Loretta Lynch, Obama's nominee to be the next U.S. attorney general, who is opposed by many Republicans. That vote is expected to be very close." Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan for Reuters.

Going after Menendez won't change New Jersey's corrupt political culture, write The New School's Jeff Smith and Baruch College's Brian Murphy. "For U.S. senators and their friends, along a cast of hundreds of county party chairmen, state lawmakers, local officials, and the heads of agencies most of us have never heard of, elections aren’t simply about grabbing ahold of an office: they’re contests to decide who dispenses favors and contracts from a purse of winnings. ... Christie and Menendez helped put some crooked politicians away and profited politically from doing so, but both seem to have succumbed to the same temptation to use their office to extract favors or exact revenge for all the wrong reasons." Politico.

2. Top opinions

ORSZAG: A lack of competition could explain the rise in inequality. "Companies have diverged in their productivity and profit rates. And that in turn could signal the rise of “economic rents” -- for example, profits at some companies well in excess of what's necessary to keep them in the market. ... Consider that, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, some U.S. manufacturing plants became far more productive than others. ... In particular, from 1965 to 1967, only 1 percent of non-financial firms earned returns of 50 percent or more, but from 2005 to 2007, 14 percent did. In other words, 50 years ago, one out of 100 firms earned 50 percent returns. More recently, one out of seven did." Bloomberg View.

IP: The Federal Reserve should wait to raise rates -- even at the risk of financial instability. "Given the harm past crises have inflicted, maintaining financial stability is hardly at odds with full employment. At some point, financial stability may be a reason for the Fed to tighten. That point is still some ways off. Raising interest rates now trades tangible harm for intangible benefits. Only once the economy can safely withstand higher rates and the associated turmoil will such a trade-off make sense." The Wall Street Journal.

O'BRIEN: Republicans vote to end the estate tax. "In other words, to stand in solidarity with the heirs of the top 0.2 percent. That's how many households pay the estate tax now: 2 out of 1,000. Why so low? Well, the first $5.43 million that an individual or $10.86 million that a couple leaves behind isn't taxed when they pass away. The estate tax, with its 40 percent top rate, only kicks in for anything more than that. And even then, creative accountants and big deductions can shield a lot of the rest from Uncle Sam." The Washington Post.

WILL: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) can't win the presidency by appealing to evangelical voters. "By disdaining 'the mushy middle,' Cruz evidently assumes that the electorate’s middle — lightly partisan and only mildly ideological — is too minuscule to matter. ... Cruz, and all other Republican aspirants, must be measured against Pennsylvania. It is one of the 18 states that have voted Democratic in six consecutive elections and that, with the District of Columbia, total 242 electoral votes, and Pennsylvania was redder in 2012 than in 2008. Which Republican is most apt to flip Pennsylvania by accumulating large majorities in Philadelphia’s suburbs? ... The Republican nominee must crack the ice that has frozen the electoral map. Cruz cannot do that by getting more votes from traditional Republican constituencies." The Washington Post.

HILTZIK: McDonald's is raising wages for a few workers, but claims it has no control over its franchisees. "That's what McDonald's wants you to think. The National Labor Relations Board thinks differently. Its general counsel said on Dec. 19 that the Oak Brook, Ill., company 'engages in sufficient control over its franchisees' make it a putative joint employer with its franchisees, sharing liability for violations of our Act.' It's pursuing a raft of unfair labor practice complaints against the main company and franchisees in hearings that are set to begin in May in New York and proceed during ensuing weeks to Chicago and Los Angeles. That surely explains why McDonald's went to such lengths to specify that it has nothing to do with pay and benefits for workers at 90% of the restaurants that carry its name and livery, but only for 90,000 of the 750,000 workers who labor for the McDonald's brand nationwide." Los Angeles Times.

NOAH SMITH: With fewer people in prison, the U.S. economy would be stronger. "Many of the billions the U.S. spends on incarceration could be better spent on things like roads, bridges and scientific research -- or assistance for the poor. Or tax cuts. And the U.S. workforce will be more productive when millions of people who could have been put behind bars are instead put to work." Bloomberg View.

3. In case you missed it 

California has begun rationing water. "As California endures its fourth year of a crippling drought, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday the state’s first mandatory water restrictions, ordering cities and towns to cut water use by 25 percent. ... Rebates will be offered to consumers to replace old appliances with new models that are energy efficient. Watering ornamental grass on roadway medians is banned. Golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscapes must cut water use immediately. And new construction developments cannot use potable water without installing special water-efficient drip irrigation systems. Crop farms and other agricultural operations will not be affected, state officials said, because many have been hard hit already." Darryl Fears in The Washington Post.

Arkansas's governor will not sign a bill seen as discriminatory. "State laws seen as discriminatory against gay couples have laid bare and intensified longtime divisions in the party between social conservatives opposed to gay rights and the pro-business wing of the party that sees economic peril in the fight. ... The divisions were on particular display Wednesday in Little Rock, Ark., where Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor, called on state lawmakers to either recall or amend legislation billed as a religious freedom measure so that it mirrored a federal law approved in 1993." Jennifer Steinhauer in The New York Times.

A study finds Romneycare fell short of its goals. What about Obamacare? "The landmark 2006 Massachusetts health-care law that inspired the federal overhaul didn't lead to a reduction in unnecessary and costly hospitalizations, and it didn't make the health-care system more fair for minority groups, according to a new study that may hold warnings for the Affordable Care Act. ... You would probably expect that more people having insurance means better access to primary care, meaning fewer people who would be hospitalized for avoidable conditions. However, the rates of preventable hospitalizations were practically the same in the first few years of the Massachusetts health reform, the researchers found. Further, blacks and Hispanics continued to have higher rates of hospitalization, and the disparity gap didn't narrow in a meaningful way." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

Economist Jonathan Gruber met his health-care nemesis Michael Cannon for a debate. "Gruber calmly reminded his audience that, whatever he might have said, the legislators who passed the ACA never intended states to be denied subsidies if their exchanges crashed. 'Jon Stewart sort of had this right,' he said. 'It's not like asking the framers of the Constitution what they meant. All the framers of this law are alive. Everyone has asked them. And no one who's looked at this law says it means what the plaintiffs think it means.' " David Weigel for Bloomberg.

Warren might not run for president, but will her ideas be on the ballot? "Hillary Clinton is expected to launch her White House bid later this month, while Elizabeth Warren, the senator known for her fiery anti-Wall Street rhetoric, repeated this week that she is not seeking the Democratic nomination. But she and her supporters have vowed to make sure that populist economic ideas feature prominently on Clinton’s agenda should the former secretary of state be the party's nominee. Warren’s backers are already fanning out in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire to push Clinton to shift toward economic populism and away from the pro-business policies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton." Amanda Becker and Jeff Mason for Reuters.